Communist Elders Take Backroom Intrigue Beachside

The New York Times’ Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield report from Beidaihe, a seaside resort outside Beijing, where Communist leaders have traditionally vacationed and held important behind-the-scenes meetings. This year the meetings are expected to be especially important as they will likely settle decisions about who will be promoted to the powerful Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th Party Congress, to be held this coming fall. The decision this year has been complicated by the political scandal involving disgraced Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, who was expected to take over a Standing Committee seat:

It is palace intrigue by the sea. In their guarded villas, current and past leaders will negotiate to try to place allies in the 25-member Politburo and its elite Standing Committee, at the top of the party hierarchy. The selections will be announced at the 18th Party Congress this fall in Beijing, heralding what is expected to be only the second orderly leadership transition in more than 60 years of Communist rule.

“This is where the factional struggles are settled and the decisions are made,” said one resident, surnamed Li, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of Chinese politics. “At the meetings in the fall, everyone just raises their hands.”

Beidaihe is a Chinese combination of the Jersey Shore and Martha’s Vineyard, with a pinch of red fervor: the hilly streets and public beaches are packed with shirtless Russians and Chinese families, while the party elites remain hidden in their villas and on their private patches of sand. A clock tower near Kiessling chimes “The East is Red,” a classic Mao anthem.

The security presence has surged in recent weeks. Police officers in light blue uniforms patrol on Suzuki motorcycles and stand on street corners watching for jaywalkers. They have set up a checkpoint on the main road leading into town.

Read more about the 18th Party Congress and about Bo Xilai via CDT.